How do you use the Cloud to your advantage as a small business? This is a question that I often receive from visitors to my blog. Translating what has been successful in the large enterprise space to the SMB market is fairly straightforward, and sometimes it is a little bit easier as SMBs typically do not need the scale that large enterprise does.
As a consultant, I spend the majority of my time in aircraft and on-site with clients all over the world. This makes working with a single desktop (or computing device) very difficult. Because I am always traveling, I need to be able to access everything I need from any location in the world on a variety of devices. Even if you are not travelling as much or as far, being able to work from anywhere on any device is a huge productivity booster.
Right now, I am typing this blog post in a Google Document, loaded in a Chrome Web Browser, on a laptop running Ubuntu Linux. Typically, I am working on an Apple MacBook Air, but alternating between an iPad and iPhone as needed. The fact that I can work with word processing documents across all of these devices is quite amazing, and not something that could be done just a few years ago. The Cloud (via Google Apps) allows me to get work done on any device I own, wherever I am in the world.
So, what are some Cloud services that can help your small business stay agile and competitive? As mentioned, Google offers an excellent suite of applications, called Google Apps, which include word processing, presentations, spreadsheets and more. These are all conveniently contained in an online storage platform, called Google Drive, which can be accessed in the Cloud (via a web browser) or from the Google Drive application, which can be installed on your Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android device or PC.
If you are an Apple aficionado, like myself, you can use Apple’s iCloud service which syncs documents across all of your Apple devices. Another popular service that I use is Dropbox. Dropbox is like a folder which is securely shared across all of your devices as well as holding an encrypted version in the Cloud. When you save files in Dropbox on your desktop or laptop, they are automatically synced to the Cloud and then synced to all of your devices that have Dropbox installed. This ensures that any file which you may need for a client project is available on any device, even your smartphone, when you need it.
The great thing about Google Apps and Dropbox is that there are locally installed versions (offline) as well as the ability to access all of the apps and files in a web browser (online.) This gives you the flexibility to move between devices easily should a device crash, break or be stolen.
These are just a few of the Cloud services that I use on a daily basis for my business. In future posts, I will cover more services as well as some more advanced security tips for working in the Cloud.